A History of the Licensed Victuallers’ School at Slough

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This history was originally published on my blog ‘Ramblings of an Old Bloke‘ and moved here in 2018. There is also a link to a video at the end.


This History was written in 1969 when I was teaching at Licensed Victuallers’ School in Slough.

The following, unpublished, History from the foundation of the School in 1803 up to 1969 was gleaned from the minutes of the governors in the school. It is a bit ‘warts and all’ and this may have prevented it’s publication at the time.

Slough has undergone massive changes since 1969 and the reader should keep in mind that any reference to ‘now’ means ‘in 1969’.

The site is now occupied by a Tesco supermarket and the later Royal Hotel opposite the school gate is no more.

The School itself moved to Ascot in the 1980s .

Introduction to The History

In the Borough of Slough, Buckinghamshire stands a cedar tree. To the rear of that tree there is a group of buildings, some old, some new. These buildings, and the grounds which surround them, make up the Licensed Victuallers’ School. The real School, however, is not made of bricks and mortar, but of the pupils and staff who live and work inside the buildings, and those who have been fortunate enough to do so since its foundation.

The school opened in 1803 in the London of George III and has continued without a break since then. But the world has changed much and the school with it.

This is the story of the Licensed Victuallers’ School from that day to this; a story of buildings and of people and of the life and times in which they existed.

Chapter 1. Certain benevolent persons

In 1793 the guillotining of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette took place in France and war broke out between France and Britain. Education as such barely existed in this country: only one child in twenty-one received any education at all and England was described as the worst educated country in Europe.

Peel’s Factory Act of 1802 reduced the hours of apprentices to twelve in any one day. It also stipulated that reading, writing and arithmetic were to be taught to children in the factories by a suitable teacher, but this clause was largely ignored by factory owners.

In London the living conditions were appalling. Disease and plague were common visitors, finding access by way of open sewers and cesspools. Polluted drinking water was often drawn from wells into which adjacent sewers had seeped, or flowed directly from the Thames: “the biggest sewer of all.” If the unfortunate Londoners escaped these causes of death, the rats helped to spread the cholera, typhoid and scarlet fever. Press gangs still roamed the riverbanks, and many children joined their elders at sea with a little push from the gangs.

Into this London, “certain benevolent persons” – chiefly William Robert Henry Brown – established the school.

The Royal Charter of the Incorporated Society of Licensed Victuallers, granted in I836, describes the formation of the Society: “In Seventeen Hundred and Ninety-three, certain benevolent persons of the trade of Licensed Victuallers, with a view to relieve their sick, infirm and distressed brethren in trade, and for the purpose, as far as in their power lay, of mitigating the evils of poverty and the ills consequent on age, did form themselves into an association or society called the Friendly Society of Licensed Victuallers“.

On February 8, 1794, the first copy of the Morning Advertiser was published, and its profits granted to the Society. (This makes it the oldest continuously published paper, although it was specifically targeted at publicans and those in the drinks trade).

The Charter goes on: “It was then determined to found and maintain a school, and a school was accordingly founded and established in Kennington Lane, in the County of Surrey, for the clothing, educating and putting out in the world of the children of such deceased, decayed and distressed Licensed Victuallers as should need the aid and claim the support of the said society.”

Thus came the foundation of the Licensed Victuallers’ School in 1803.

A site in Kennington Lane was leased from Sir Joseph Mawbey. Sir Joseph was a baronet and Member of Parliament for the County of Surrey from 1780 until 1789. He inherited a large fortune from his uncle, Joseph Pratt, who owned a large distillery in Vauxhall. So large was this distillery that in one year it paid £600,000 in revenue; this at a time when pints of brandy, rum and beer cost l/6d (7 ½ p), 3/6d (17 ½ p), 2/-(10p) and 2d (1p) respectively.

Sir Joseph Mawbey invested some of his money in copyhold estates belonging to the Duke of Cornwall, in Kennington, and it was one of these estates that was leased to the Society.


The original copyhold premises in which the school began in 1803.

(From an oil painting at the school)

The initial meeting of the School Committee took place in the Fleet Street offices of the Society on January 19th, 1803, and it was decided then to appoint a school mistress, preferably someone on the ‘benevolent fund’ of the Society. By the 13th of the month Mrs Sarah Wilkinson had been appointed the first schoolmistress at a salary of 20 guineas (£21) per annum. On January 18th,1803 the first twenty children were “elected” to the school.

The ‘election’ to the school must have been one of the most unique methods of choosing pupils of any school, but for all that, it remained until quite recent times.

Application was made by people on the benevolent fund, and their names and conditions circulated to all members of the society for election. The votes of the members depended on how much money they had subscribed. A considerable amount of soliciting and canvassing went on and of course, members of the Committee each had their ‘pet’ candidates whose names were freely advertised.

The conditions for entry of a child into the school were: that the parent should have been a member of the Friendly Society for a full three years, that the child should have been born in wedlock and be between eight and twelve years old. Full enquiry was made into the financial situation of the parent(s). No child could be admitted without a certificate, signed by a ‘medical man’ that the child was free from ‘every contagious disorder’, and enquiry was made of the way of life and character of their parents and relatives.

On February 3rd, 1803, the first children attended to be examined medically, and they were all found to be in good health. The Rules of the School were read to their parents and relatives. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday were set aside for visitors from 12noon to 2pm and 5pm until 6pm. These liberal hours must have created some problems and were later reduced at regular intervals. February 7th, 1803, saw the first lessons in the school.

Chapter 2. The Children

If the reader is anticipating a watered down, classics-based, poor man’s public school, then he/she is decidedly wrong. The founders had their feet firmly on the ground. The syllabus was carefully designed to give the children a basic background education. It consisted of “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Household Work and Other Useful Things”. The children were “soundly instructed in religion, according to the doctrines and forms of the Established Church”. Needlework was collected and sold and the schoolmistress received 5% of the profits.

The school supplied the children with the following clothes:
Boys: Jacket, waistcoat and pantaloons with plain round hats.
Girls: Bombazine (twill) jacket and coat, with straw bonnets and white tippets (capes), plus all the necessary underclothing, etc.
(Shoes at this time cost 4/-(20p) per pair)

At Christmas, the children were given a week’s holiday from lessons although they were kept in school, since their parents could not afford to keep them.

By the following March the need was felt for a non-resident schoolmaster, and Thomas Layton was appointed at a salary of £20.

The hours of attendance of the schoolmaster were later increased to 7am-9.30am, 1pm-1.30pm and from 4.30pm until bedtime. He was to attend on all holidays he had from another school where he was senior master. His salary was raised to £50. If this rise was in proportion to his increase in work, then he cannot have attended much in the first place.

(£20 per annum is 8/- (40p) a week; £50 about £1 a week OR approximately 7d (3p) an hour)

The school continued to grow until 1806, when it was reported to the Committee that the school­mistress’s daughter was living in the school and was ‘receiving Sunday callers’. This was adjudged a major scandal and as a result it was decided to replace the existing staff with a married couple.

The same year the school building was purchased for £1,080.

The Committee appointed Mr and Mrs Adams, but they only lasted two years and were replaced by Mr and Mrs Hardy at a joint salary of £60.

In Parliament, Mr Whitbread’s Parochial School Bill was rejected by the House of Lords, who were suspicious of attempts to educate the poor, “lest they should be aware of their lowly state and desire better”.

In 1810 two boys gained the dubious distinction of being the first to be expelled, for continuous truancy.

In 1812, the year that war broke out with the USA, the children attended the first annual anniversary dinner of the Society. This event, which was to become a yearly treat for the children, was not simply a kind-hearted gift to the children. Although they were treated to food and drink, they earned it by parading with banners to soften the hearts and loosen the purses of the guests, and so help to raise the funds necessary to run the school.

Until 1813 the children had never been allowed out of school on visits to their parents, but in this year, perhaps as compensation for visiting times being reduced to 9am-12noon, and 2-5pm on the first Sunday in the month, they were allowed out on visits on three days each year.

The French/Napoleonic and American wars came to an end in 1815. The values of the school at the time seem rather strange today. One boy was sent, at the expense of the school, to Margate to improve his health by bathing, while another was severely flogged before all the boys for persuading four others to go absent, and two of the boys concerned were called upon to administer twelve lashes each on his back.

Accusations against Mr Hardy by a girl after she had left the school, although never proven, led to his dismissal and to the appointing of Mr and Mrs Lessington in 1819.

In the same year, the adjoining houses were bought from Sir Joseph Mawbey’s trustees, and the visiting days further reduced, so that now parents could only attend on the first Sunday in January, April, July and October between 9 and 12 noon.

One year after their appointment, the Lessingtons were removed and their post advertised. The post was so desirable that 116 applications were received, but only 11 couples were considered suitable for interview. Mr and Mrs Price were appointed.

The powers of the resident staff at this time were confined largely to the welfare of the children and even this was closely watched by a visiting subcommittee which changed monthly. The members visited at least once a week.

Until this time the people of London had been under the protection of only 4,000 watchmen who, armed with staff and rattle, patrolled the streets throughout the night calling out the time and the state of the weather. In 1820 the Metropolitan Police was formed to replace them and to fight crime.

The school doctor was also sometimes referred to as being an apothecary, or a surgeon, so it is difficult to know his qualifications. One such doctor had doubt cast on his ability when he could not find a cure for the outbreak of a strange disease called ‘The Itch’, thought to be due to the over-long storage of meat. After some considerable time three other doctors from the district were called in and the malady cured within two weeks.

The staff increased in 1829 when a second master was appointed at £30 per annum, including board. Shoes, by the way, had risen in price to 16/- a pair (70p) and haircuts were 3d (1p).

South Thames labourers marched to gain a wage of 2/6d (12p) a day. Three were hanged and 420 transported to Australia.

Meanwhileback at the school, one enterprising youth set fire to the potato room over the boys’ schoolroom, with a phosphorous box. He was taken to the Watch House at Union Hall (police station) at the direction of the chief officer and later expelled.

This reference to the boys’ schoolroom should remind the reader that children (boys separately from girls) of all ages and abilities were taught in one room at one time. It was the usual method at the time that a few of the older brighter boys were taught a topic then returned to the class to teach the others. These “monitors” must have helped the staff, but it must have been a demanding task for them nonetheless.

Chapter 3. Thirty Years On

The children at the school at this time must, as all children do, have thought that life outside looked more rosy than theirs, but even a cursory glance would have convinced them otherwise.

In 1833 the Factory Act cut children’s working hours to 48 per week if they were under thirteen years of age, or 69 hours if between thirteen and eighteen. Slavery was at last abolished in the British Empire. As a result of the Education Act, £20,000 was sent on the nation’s schools, while during the same period £30,000 was spent on the stables at Buckingham Palace.

Suits now cost 23/- (£1.15p), greatcoats 21/-(£1.05p) and whalebone stays for the girls 3/6 pr. (17p)

One unfortunate boy was confined to ‘the black hole’ for one week on bread and water, for ‘indecency in front of the girls’ and four others expelled for the same crime. This mention of the ‘black hole’ seems harsh, but as readers of Victor Hugo will know this was standard maximum punishment in schools in France as well as in England.

The Headmaster was reminded to take the children for walks, but the boys and girls were not to walk together nor were they to meet as a consequence of the walk.

In 1834 the Committee investigated the idea of building a new school. The first plan was to demolish the existing buildings and rebuild on the same site. Difficulties in obtaining surrounding land, however, led to a decision to move to a new site.

The Committee visited other schools and found many “superior” in many respects: they were larger, for example, and the sexes were completely separated, children stood for meals and there were no holidays.

In 1835 the surrounding land was obtained and the “go ahead” given for the new building. By August 5 the first plans were produced and by November the cost estimated at £14,000.Completion was expected to be February 1st 1837.

One of the frequent rumours of scandal circulated at this time. This particular piece of gossip suggested indecency with the girls by, and the general misconduct of, the Headmaster and his wife.

It is worth pausing at this point to discover how such rumours began and how they were dealt with. The Committee met on the morning of the first Tuesday of the month. On the particular Tuesday this rumour came to light, the meeting adjourned and a group of committeemen proceeded to the tavern where the scandal had been heard. The licensee gave the name of the person who was responsible and the party set off. After many cases of “I heard it from …” they arrived at the house of the mother of a girl at the school. The girl in question appeared at the afternoon session of the Committee and told her tale. The Head and his wife were also questioned.

The rumour had stemmed from the fact that the girl had witnessed the Head pushing his wife into a large new laundry basket in jest, and on another occasion she said he had run his hand through the hair of a girl he passed on the stairs.

This tyre of gossip occurred often, and although without foundation, it must have done much harm to the reputation of the school at the time.

A minor mutiny occurred when the boys were ‘forced to drink water when their beer went bad and when bread was short’. Threat of the black hole soon quelled this disquiet.

On an occasion when the children visited a local zoo, they were admitted for free, but the gentlemen of the Committee were asked to pay. The children were withdrawn and returned to the school, while the Committee adjourned to a tavern.

In October 1835 the Head and his wife resigned, to be replaced by a Mr Railton and Miss Dallimore, but by December Mr Railton had given way to Mr Baptiste Thomas.

Chapter 4. The New School

The Laying of The Foundation Stone on January 21st, I836

Of all the events that have taken place over the years, this occasion must have been the most grandiose. From the reports of the day it is possible to recreate this day:

Procession from the Horns’ Tavern, Kennington.
Policemen to clear the way. 
Beadles of Lambeth Parish.
8 past committeemen (4 abreast and each carrying a gold-headed wand with a white favour at the top) 
Full Military Band. (4 abreast)
Past committeemen. (abreast with wands and favours) Past trustees. (4 abreast with wands and favours
Past chairmen. (4 abreast with wands and favours) Stewards of the day. (4 abreast with wands & favours) 
School Banner.
Under matron. Schoolmistress.
Girls. (2 abreast) 
School Banner.
Under Master. Schoolmaster . 
Boys. (2 abreast)
Surgeon . Editor of Morning Advertiser.
Ministers of St Mark’s, Kennington.
16 Present committeemen. (4 abreast wearing pink
present trustees. (3 abreast with rosettes)
Clerk of works.
Architect and Junior.
Solicitor . Chairman of the Committee . Secretary
A nobleman. Rt Hon Lord Viscount Melbourne, Prime Minister to King William IV. A nobleman.
The Rt. Hon Charles Tennyson D’Eyncourt MP
Benjamin Hawes MP
Other visitors.
Policeman to close procession.

Programme of the Ceremony

The band plays “See the Conquering Hero Comes”.
Enter Lord Melbourne. 
National Anthem.
Anthem: “Lord of All Power and Might”. 
Senior boy reads address.
Chairman reads inscription on brass plate to Lord Melbourne.
The First Stone of The Licensed
Victuallers’ School
Anno Domini MDCCCIII etc.
The chairman then exhibited to Lord Melbourne the glass vase containing coins of the realm, and plans and elevations of the building.
Laying Of The Stone.
Children sing thanksgiving hymn written for the occasion.
Lord Melbourne’s Address
National Anthem.
Procession returned to the tavern.
In the evening a dinner was held at The Horns Tavern, Kennington. Tickets 12/6 (~60p) including one bottle of wine.

Legend has it that Charles Dickens was present at the stone laying and that his report appeared in a newspaper the next day. However, Dickens worked for several newspapers at the time, including The Morning Advertiser itself. Whether Dickens penned the following report is not known. This does not detract from the fact that it gives us a very clear and detailed picture of the occasion:

“The coup d’oeil of the procession was imposing and gratifying in the extreme; and the order and interest of the scene lost none of their effect and advantages by the peculiarly favourable state of the weather. The day was comparatively mild and clear. Several patrons of the procession were irresistibly impressive – but none more so, (after contemplating such varied classes of society joining in this act of enlightened charity, viewing them from the humble tradesmen up to the Prime Minister), than the children – girls, then boys – already in this distinguished and rapidly advancing school.
Their general appearance had obviously the most gratifying effect on the company assembled, not only in the rooms of the tavern, but all along the road. No badge of charity marked the costume of the children to deprecate the value of the duty performed by the more successful competitors in the struggles of the world. The dresses were neat, 
respectable and most comfortable, such as would do no discredit to the children of the most opulent tradesmen; no grotesque coats or frocks, no yellow stockings, nor farcical dwarf cap. On the contrary, while an example is set of what ought to be done in such institutions, the children were attired as if they belonged to respectable tradesmen, who could afford to defray the expenses of their board and education and thus not made every hour to feel they are “the objects of charity”, but have the nobler sentiment instilled into them, that the more prosperous protect them, and thereby impose on the children the obligation of becoming exemplary and successful members of society in order thereby to pay off the obligations they may be under, by going and doing likewise in their turns.”

 The School in 1836, from a copy of NAAFI News 1949. (Photo courtesy of NAAFI)

On May 3rd, 1836, King William IV granted the “Royal Charter of Incorporation” and the Society became the “Incorporated Society of Licensed Victuallers”

In March 1837 the new school was handed over and the children returned from Grove House, Camberwell, where they had lodged during the building work.

King William became the first Royal Patron of the school, thereby forging a link with the Royal family, which exists today.


Boys and girls uniforms in 1837, on the accession of Queen Victoria.

The paintings are of dolls held in the school by Maung Tin Aye, son of The Burmese Ambassador in 1969

Chapter 5. Under Royal Patronage


Plan of the School on completion of rebuilding in 1838. Taken from the title deed of the building. (Permission of the NAAFI)

On her accession to the throne in 1837, Queen Victoria became Royal Patron of the school.

For many years after the rebuilding, the school improved and progressed as all good schools should. Life around London, however, was not progressing quite as well.

In 1847 and 1853 there were two severe outbreaks of cholera which put the school into quarantine for the safety of the children. Those responsible for the public health of the city did not, however, learn much from these outbreaks, and in 1858 the open sewers still existed. These sewers, and a particularly hot and dry summer, produced what has come to be known to historians as the ‘Great Stink’, when an unbelievable nasty stench hung over the city for weeks.

In 1851 the children visited The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. The building housing the Great Exhibition was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, who, ten years earlier, had also designed the grounds of the Royal Hotel in Slough.

The war of 1854-1855 in Crimea claimed the lives of several of the old boys, and held the interest of those children still in the school.

The move into the new building had not altered the day to day running of the school much. The holidays remained as few as ever: Easter Monday, Whit Monday, Michaelmas Day and Christmas Day, only one of which could be overnight. The children, however, did have much more reasonable holidays from schoolwork, but at these times they remained at school.

Since its establishment in 1803, 995 children had entered the school and were catalogued on leaving as follows:
Apprenticed                                        248
Sent to service                                    403
Taken by relatives and friends       200
Died in school                                     22
Expelled                                              10
In school                                             112
Total                                                     995

At this time the staff consisted of two masters, two mistresses and the matron.

The VIP Visitors Book was started in 1843 and remains in perfect condition to this day. It contains the names of all the leading brewery families from that day to this, as well as the other important visitors to this school.

One of the most distinguished of the school’s visitors was the Nawab of Bengal in 1870.

Prince Ali Kuhr Baldoor and his brother Soliman Kuhr Baldoor wished to “express the great satisfaction they had experienced in visiting this noble institution. They had been particularly struck with the cleanliness of the rooms and every arrangement for the comfort of the children, the admirable ventilation and accommodation supplied throughout the building and with the healthy and intelligent appearance of the children.” (VIP Visitors’ Book entry.)

In 1857, the School gained the freehold of the land from the Duchy of Cornwall, at a cost of £3,500. This meant that both the land and the building on it were the property of the school.

To celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales, (later Edward VII), to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, the children were treated by the governors to a dinner of “Olde English Fayre” – Brash Beef and Plum Pudding. In honour of the occasion, the Prince of Wales became Royal Patron of the school.5

Plan of the building in 1870 from London County Council survey of London 1956

Note the disproportionate size of the boardroom compared to the boys and girls’ schoolrooms, and the high wall which divides the playground at the rear.

Mr Hammett was appointed head teacher in 1880 after a number of staff dismissals. In 1881 he was replaced by Mr Whitmore, whose wife became matron. Under Mr Whitmore, mark books were issued to the staff for the first time, to keep a record of the children’s work. Entry for the College of Preceptors Examination was considered, since there had been no public examinations in the school. There was a suggestion that French might be added to the syllabus, but this was considered “unwise” and the plan was abandoned.
Doctor Monday was appointed school doctor and held this post for many years. One former pupil describes him as a ‘dirty greasy old man, who diagnosed all manner of illness by examining only the backs of the children’s hands’. His cure-all was a noxious brew known as the “black draught” which had rather dramatic after-effects.6Engraving of an Anniversary Dinner in the Victorian era.

The children are seen in procession in the centre

In 1882 the ‘Smalley Prizes’ were presented for the first time; let the inscription on the Smalley Tablet tell the story.

“To the Memory of William Smalley, for 36 years Secretary to the Incorporated Society of Licensed Victuallers. Born 25th Oct 1809, Died 5th Nov 1880. Educated at the school, he devoted a lifetime to its service and by his energy ability and industry, as well as by his constant benefactions, earned the respect and gratitude of all friends of The Institute. This Tablet Commemorative of his honourable and useful career and of his untiring solicitude for the interests of The Society was erected by The Governor and Committee. A.D. 1882”

This tablet was erected in the schoolhouse in London and later transferred to Slough. The date of his death has led to a great deal of invention by the children, of gruesome tales of death by fireworks, but the truth bears no relation to the legend.

After the Great Exhibition building had been moved to Sydenham Hill to become the Crystal Palace, it was visited annually by the schoolchildren until it burned down in 1936.

Around, this time (1882) came the first idea of building a swimming pool. In addition, the former objection to the teaching of French was reviewed and both French and Latin were added to the subjects taught.7

View of the school prior to 1888, as the shop on the left was purchased by The Society in that year and demolished to make way for the swimming pool.

In 1884 a set of dummy muskets was purchased and a drill instructor employed to drill both boys and girls. He was a veteran of the Crimea, Sergeant Thomas Sullivan, and held his instructor’s post for the next 24 years.

On one visit to the School, the dentist extracted 106 teeth from 54 girls and 59 boys without anaesthetic.

In 1886, Mr Wallis gained the headship. The subjects examined at this time were: reading, spelling, writing, mental-arithmetic, English grammar and scripture.

(Note: no French or Latin examination.)

One year later, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, the children were each presented with a special Jubilee shilling and a pocket handkerchief by the Governor.

In the same year the school leaving age was raised to 15 years. The buildings and land of Young’s Marine Store next to the school were bought and the buildings pulled down to make way for the proposed swimming bath, which was to cost £2,500 plus £70 for the heating.

In 1890 the Head’s salary was raised to £120 and an ex-Royal Horse Guardsman appointed to be bandmaster for the school’s brass band.

The standard of education had improved to such an extent since the early days in the school that in 1891 the boys were given the highest grade of ‘Excellent’ in the College of Precentors examination; a distinction they attained 20 times in the next fourteen years.


After 1890, with the swimming pool on the left

The swimming pool was opened on the 16th of April 1891, at a final cost of £3,248:17s:4d ,which was just a “little” more than originally estimated, even though the heating was provided by the laundry boiler.

A man and a woman were appointed to teach the children how to swim. Not only did the children have the pride of owning one of the few indoor swimming pools in London, but the boys were also allowed to use the nearby Oval Cricket Ground on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

President’s Day, the school prize day, is mentioned in the school records for the first time in this same year. The prizes in those days were not books, as now, but medals for good conduct and work.

Although the school had by this time reached a position not unlike today, it was not until 1891 that free and compulsory education became a fact throughout the nation at last

An applicant for the post of first assistant mistress mentioned qualifications including Scripture, Physiology, Botany, Geometry, Blackboard Drawing, Music, Drill, Needlework, Cutting Out, Cookery and Domestic Economy. All this for £60 per annum. (She got the job.)

One master, who was found to have been educated at a Wesleyan college, was dismissed the moment this came to light. The reason for this seemingly harsh act was that he might not follow “the doctrines and forms of the Established Church” adhered to in the school

Another surprising dismissal, in the light of earlier examples of beating, was that of a master for using corporal punishment.

In 1893, the Headmaster gained the title of Superintendent, which he holds to this day, and for the first time carried sole responsibility for the running of the School


The clothes in 1897 at the time of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee

Again paintings of dolls by Maung Tin Aye.

Chapter 6. Into the Twentieth Century

One former pupil, or ‘old boy’, tells of life in the school at the turn of the century:

“The children were given numbers and were addressed by them.” The Head was taken to task about this; his reasoning was that it was the practice in public schools and, apart from that, there were 20 children called Smith in the school. So how otherwise could one distinguish between them?

“The lighting in the school was by means of plain gas jets, some of which were arranged on large iron chandeliers which the more adventurous children were ready to convert to gymnastic equipment from time to time.” Incandescent lighting was added, in 1894, but only to the committee room.

“The boys’ uniform changed, from black Eton jackets and trousers with white Eton collars and a mortar board, to a grey suit with cap”.

It is amusing to note that the cry of “Crow” was used, then as now, for approaching staff. This cry seems to originate from the black gowns worn by staff.

“The children rose at 7am (6am in summer). They spent a total of 6 and a half hrs in the classroom, nowadays, just 5hrs.

The subjects taught were scripture, arithmetic, algebra, history, geography, grammar, singing and French, taught by a genuine Frenchman!

“Boys and girls were still completely separate, and children could attend the school from 7 to 15 years of age. If the weather was fine the children were often taken for a walk, in strict crocodile of course, either down by the river to Battersea Park or to The Tate Gallery.

When boys left the school at 15, they were given a “bible, a prayer book, two suits, two sets of underwear, one hat, one pair of boots, an umbrella, a tin trunk to put them in and a sum of money.” This was not the end, however, as help was often given with night school and examination fees. The girls received the equivalent.

In 1898 the inspector of schools for the army remarked on visiting the school that: “In no schools have I seen better work than I find at the LVS.”

Such was the standard of education received that one boy called Hewitt was 3rd of 2044 candidates in the College of Precentors examination.

In 1898 the Old Students’ Association was formed.

To celebrate the Coronation of Edward VII in 1903, the School was illuminated and the division of the sexes was relaxed so that boys and girls were allowed to mix for perhaps the only time in their life at the school.

In 1903, 30 boys were taken to see the Royal Installation of the South London Electric Trams, which were brought in to replace those drawn by horses.

A major breakthrough took place in 1904 when typewriting and shorthand lessons were given to mixed classes.

In 1909 the headmaster Mr Wallis resigned after 24 years’ service. He was replaced by Mr Appleton, a certificate trained teacher, who gained a science degree while employed at the school.

In 1910 George V became the Royal Patron of the school.

A pupil named Tom Farrants hit the national headlines when he rescued a boy drowning while on holiday. This was held up as a shining example of the benefits of having a school swimming baths and teaching swimming to the young pupils.

Mr Coleman was appointed headmaster in 1911 at a salary of £150. National Insurance was introduced and a list of staff salaries drawn up. It serves to illustrate the very large staff and the expense involved in running the LVS.

Masters:                 Head £150                        Mistresses:   Head £140

1st      £100                                                       1st      £60
2nd      £65                                                       2nd      £45
3rd      £55                                                       3rd      £40
4th      £45

Part time teaching staff:
Shorthand and typing                 £55
Two swimming teachers            £26 each
Cookery                                          £21
Drill                                                £30
French                                           £52
Domestic Staff:
Cook                                              £40
Two kitchen maids                    £17 each
Parlour maid                              £20
Four housemaids                      £17 each
Three laundry maids               £26, £20 & £17
Engineer                                     £85
Two porters                               £68 & £41
Needlewoman                           £46
Matron’s asst.                            £40
Nurse                                          £32
Girl’s attendant                         £21

The first school magazines were published in 1912. The reason for the publication was not to publicise the school, nor to improve the children’s English, but simply to raise funds for the prevision of football equipment, since a football field had been procured the previous year. The price was 2/6d (25p) for two copies per year.

In the first edition of the magazine are details of the swimming pool and of the competitive events held in it. As well as the usual swimming races there were such exotic events as plunging, bobbing for corks, tub racing, chariot racing and diving for plates. The pool was 40 feet long and 20 feet wide, sloping from 3ft6ins (1m) to 6 feet (2m) deep.

Christmas parties were always held after the turn of the year, sometimes even as late as February. The Governor, then as now, played Santa Claus, and the children had a moving-picture show and a sing-song to Mr Hans’ Quadrille Band. (Mr Hans also taught the brass band.)

The second edition of the magazine tells of the school sports at High Beech in Epping Forest. They were held there at the King’s Oak in those days, and until well after the school had moved to Slough.

Later magazines tell much of life in the school seen from the children’s viewpoint. One such event was a cricket match at the Oval, between Jockeys and Athletes, in which well-known personalities such as Bombardier “Billy” Wells and Steve Donoghue took part. Wells was a heavyweight boxer and Donoghue a jockey who was a legend in his lifetime. The ex-king of Portugal, Dom Manuel, umpired the match for a time.

The school had one of the first scout troops to be formed. The school also had a very fine band, which played at many notable functions. It consisted, remarked one old boy, of “brass, woodwind and concussion“. The band was recognised as one of the best in the district and played at the christening of the daughter of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the Chief Scout, and later at a recruiting rally for the army.

In 1914, when war was on the minds of all the children, they visited Balham Palladium to see the “Great British Army” film. They were filmed in procession to the theatre and returned there after a meal to see the film in which they appeared?

Arrangements were made for possible air raids. Every basin and bath was filled with water when not in use and respirators were bought for the children. The basement was used as an air-raid shelter and the staff and senior boys fire-watched from the roof.

The magazine of 1915 tells of “Our Zeppelin Raid” and of life in wartime London; the recruiting rosters; the parks used as parade grounds and camps. The Crystal Palace was full of sailors when the children paid their annual visit. Ambulances full of wounded were a common sight in the streets of London and the streets and bridges were occupied by guns. The funeral processions of children killed in Zeppelin raids, and internment camps such as that at Alexandra Palace, all helped to convey to the children the horror and reality of war.

In the Old Students notes, a Mormon writes in praise of Salt Lake City, Utah, and of his conversion to the faith. Letters were also received from Old Boys at “the front” and several of their names and decorations appear on the war shrine in Kennington Church.

In 1917 the Headmaster married and his wife became Headmistress.

Chapter 7. The end of an Era

In 1920, Albert, Duke of York, who was later to become George VI, visited the School. In the speech by the Governor it was pointed out that “The cost of the upkeep of the school is £14,000 a year and it seems best to move out to the country, when a suitable site can be obtained, so that the health of the children can be maintained at its highest standard and also to enable us to teach the senior boys gardening, agriculture etc, so useful to our young folk, the future citizens of this great empire.”(cheers)

The Duke, in his speech, agreed with the idea and as always in such cases, the idea was credited to him.

Without further ado, a site with a suitable building on it was purchased in Slough and the London building sold to the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) who still (in 1969) occupied the building, the facade of which is retained under a preservation order. Now called ‘Imperial Court’!

So ended an era and perhaps, what is more important, the stigma of “Institution” began to diminish with the move.

Chapter 8. ‘The Biggest House in Slough’

The site chosen for the School in Slough, (then in Buckinghamshire) was immediately adjacent to the railway line. It was a fine choice of site, allowing both a sense of country life and easy access to London and other notable places. The proliferation of new buildings around the school property in the years that followed indicates that many other bodies besides the ISLV thought the same.

Slough, and particularly the site chosen for the school, had its own history, worth a slight digression to see the effect on the school after its move there.

Slough, as a single borough, was a ‘new’ town, that had grown out of an army equipment dump at the end of the 1914-18 war. There are, however, records of lands and houses around the Upton and Chalvey area which were given to the followers of William the Conqueror. These grew into villages which, as they increased in size, merged into one another. The main industry of Slough was the mining of clay and the making of bricks, and it was for the transport of these that the Grand Union Canal was extended into the town. The coming of the railway took much of the traffic from the canal, but the importance of Slough as a main line station was delayed for many years by Old Etonians in the government, who thought that the building of a railway station would be a bad thing for nearby Eton College, in that it might tempt the boys to run away, and would bring the undesirable element of London too close for comfort. The trains of The Great Western Railway did, however, stop at Slough. Since there was no station, tickets were sold from the windows of the North Star Hotel.

A shrewd Frenchman by the name of Monsieur Carlo Dotesio got wind that permission to build a station might be forthcoming. With this in mind, he purchased the land from the North Star as far as Wexham Road. On this land he built “the biggest house in Slough,” in yellow brick with numerous bow windows. He travelled to Paris to buy Louis XIV and Louis XV furniture (since they no longer had the use of it) and Gabelin tapestries from the Palace of Versailles. The grounds around his building were landscaped by Sir Joseph Paxton, the architect of the Great Exhibition and Crystal Palace.

In 1841 his “house” became the Royal Hotel. The main building stood where the science block stands today and on the north side, where the sports hall stood, was a large hall for the convenience of passing travellers. The present Royal Hotel was then the stables and servants’ quarters.

So frequently did Queen Victoria and her Consort stay overnight when travelling to and from London, that a large room on the first floor was set aside for them.

10From a drawing on stone by J.C.Bourne. A print hung in the later Royal Hotel.

Near to the hotel, on a hillock, stood a tiny wooden hut. It contained the first long-distance magnetic telegraph in the world, which joined Slough with Paddington.

A murder took place at Salt-Hill in Slough in the 1840s and the wanted man boarded the train for London. He was apprehended on arrival and so gained the distinction of being the first criminal caught with the aid of magnetic telegraph.

The signal discs for the railway were changed by “policemen” in top hats and tail coats, who stood on a bridge over the line. These were for the ease of mind of the passengers rather than for any useful purpose since only one train occupied the lines at any one time.

The area around the hotel was much different from today.  No road passed near to the railway on the east side and the drive leading up to the hotel wound its way through the grounds from Wexham Road, although a footpath passed close by where Mackenzie St. (Brunel Way) now stands. A large double gate stood opposite the station for the use of travellers.

In 1849 the Windsor branch of the line was opened, thus removing the need for a large overnight hotel in Slough, and by 1852 the hotel had closed and Dotesio had moved on.

The coach house and servants’ quarters were converted into the Royal Hotel at a later date.


Slough Station on the occasion of the leaving of Queen Victoria’s special train

The main building stood empty for the next ten years, although in 1858 the grounds were used for an “historic” political dinner attended by Disraeli, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, and 500 guests. His caustic speech filled three columns of the next day’s Times of London.

In 1863 the buildings and part of the grounds were purchased, through the generosity of a Mr McKenzie, and given to the British Orphan Asylum, who used it as a boarding school until purchased by the Licensed Victuallers.

12The British Orphan Asylum, from an undated photograph.

The view shows the front of the building, away from the railway line.

The bay windows in the centre of the first floor belong to a room set aside for Queen Victoria in its Royal Hotel days.

Chapter 9. A School In The Country

13The School after 1920, as shown in a (coloured) enamel boss in the centre of the firefighting shield, held in the boardroom at the time of writing.

An artist’s impression, since the name of the School in large gold letters spread in one horizontal line across the whole front of the building and not in three lines as shown. What later became the main drive is seen on the right.

On October 26th, 1921, the new school was officially opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone. A reception was held in the boys’ main classroom and the music was provided by the band of The Royal Horse Guards. The name of the School was displayed in large gold letters on the back of the school building, facing the railway.

Two hundred pupils attended at this time and among the amenities were play sheds, fives courts, nine acres of land and a covered, heated, swimming pool. From the upper rooms one could see the Palace of Westminster, Windsor Castle, the Chilterns, the North Downs, Stoke Poges Church and Beaconsfield. It really was a school in the country.

In 1923 the Duke of York once more paid a visit to the school, this time to see the results of the move. This visit was, however, private and lasted only twenty-five minutes, but it was long enough for him to express his approval of the change.

The financial resources of the school, which did not charge fees, were very much reduced by the heavy expenditure on the new school building, and during 1924 many domestic staff were dispensed with and no new clothes were bought for the children. The Headmaster was asked to reduce the teaching staff and parents who could afford it were asked, to donate fifty pounds towards the upkeep of the school.

The Committee was dismayed to find that £122 worth of wine and spirits was consumed in that year, but seemed quite surprised to learn that they had been the only people with access to the liquor store.


Seen from the air in 1928 the school is in the centre with Slough Railway Station at the bottom.

The daily routine in 1928 is recalled by an Old Girl of the school.

7am Rise when woken by nurse.
7.40 Breakfast.
A list of tuck was made up and taken to a local shop to be prepared, for the following Saturday. The girls then dusted and swept their own classrooms.
8.45 Service held by the Headmistress in the girls’ assembly room.
9.00 lessons (mixed)
10.45 Break
11am lessons
12am Break
12.30 Lunch
2pm Lessons
4pm End of lessons
5.30 Tea
7pm Prep.
8.15 Bed
9pm Lights out, and seniors to bed
9.30 Senior lights out

Lessons were held on Saturday mornings, but on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, all children played games. On Sunday mornings the pupils walked in line to morning service at St Mary’s Church.

On President’s Day there were displays of needlework cookery and woodwork. The President and Committee also attended a stage show at the school.

Every July, until 1956, a Garden Party was held in the grounds on visiting day. This too was attended by the President and Committee. This was a great money-raiser for the school and thousands of pounds were raised on these occasions. There were stalls, a gym display and a theatre show. Ballroom dancing lasted on the lawn until almost midnight. The bar on the occasion was supplied with beer free by a large London brewery, and this was sold on the night at a reduced price, and such was the quantity that all who visited the school in the ensuing weeks were also entertained.

However, such was the expense involved in maintaining the school that the money raised at the Garden Party did little to ease the financial difficulties, and in 1928 the building and site were put up for sale for £55,000.

The intention was to rebuild the school elsewhere at a cost estimated at £30,000. As we shall see, both these prices were wildly optimistic and no offers were immediately forthcoming.

The Meredith and Drew sports prizes were donated in 1930 on the centenary of the firm, a biscuit manufacturers who would one day become KP (as in, crisps and nuts). By then the only offer for the site had been by Slough Council, who desired the site for a new town hall. The only site mooted as alternatives for the School were Glebe House in Hayes, Kent, and Haycroft in Surbiton, Surrey.